Artist revitalizing Ironton Tanks mural

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 25, 2022

Shayna Moore works on reviving the Ironton Tanks mural on the floodwall on Friday. She and artist Sean Kelley hope to complete it this weekend. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Next week, anyone visiting the Ironton riverfront may notice that the Ironton Tanks mural on the floodwall is looking different.

That is because local artist Sean Kelley will be spending this weekend reviving it.

Kelley already has one mural on the floodwall, a stylized moth with lotus flowers around it.

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The artist usually works in a smaller scale, making prints by carving out designs on linoleum. He graduated from Ironton High School in 2004 and received a bachelor degree in painting from Ohio University.

“I always wanted to do a mural,” he said. “Ashland has a bunch of them and I just wanted to bring some to Ironton and do them on the floodwall.”

He said even though a mural is a larger scale than his prints, he just creates an attack plan to tackle the project.

“I find the center piece of the project and work out from there,” Kelley explained. “I just have to find my style and go from there.”

He said he wanted to revive the Tanks mural because the original plan was just to cover it up. Instead, he is working with the mayor’s office to bring it back to life.

“And that is part of the history of our town and I wanted to restore it,” Kelley said. “Even though it is going to be impossible to make it the way it was, I am going to try to get close and give it a more modern look to fit the times.”

He said he will be painting the whole thing the old-fashioned way.

“Strictly by painting. I did buy some spray paint. But my first mural I did with house paint, because it is designed to withstand the elements,” Kelley said.

And Kelley has a nostalgic reason for helping to bring back the murals on the floodwall.

“My mother used to take me to the riverbank in the ‘90s and we’d eat Wendy’s and those murals were beautiful,” he said. “I just want to get it back to where it was.”

Kelley’s works are available at the Jewel Gallery in Ashland, Kentucky. For more about Kelley, read the September-October issue of Tri-State Living.